Lost and found

Pallavi Sharma, assistant editor, CNME

Weekends normally mean a reprieve from a strenuous work environment but a recent trip to the movies turned out to be an all new learning experience.

In keeping with tradition, a bunch of my friends and I decided to hit the movies for a relaxed weekend (as opposed to the party mayhem we normally indulge in). Three hours later and half way home, it suddenly hit me- I had lost my precious iPhone.

“Oh no! My music,” was the first thought that popped into my head. A few seconds later I realised, while the iPhone was my means of complete entertainment it was also the phone that I used to access work emails and store documents and information.

Luckily for me, by the time the repercussions of this loss had completely sunk into my head we were already back at the scene of the incident (I hold back from using the word crime here, for I hoped the phone had just fallen out of my pocket and would miraculously be found lying under my seat).

An hour later, having checked with security and carefully scoped the theatre, refreshment stand and the restroom and no iPhone in sight, I was resigned to the idea of petty theft and the fact that my smart phone was now gone.

Long story short, I didn’t despair much only because a fellow movie-goer had found my phone lying on the floor and benevolently handed it over to me the very next day.

Having learnt my lesson from worrying for a few hours about the state of my phone and the contents therein, I took to the wonderous world of the web to discover the Find My iPhone app.

This is how it works.

The Find My iPhone app is available for free and can be downloaded to another iOS device (your iPad or a friend’s iPod, for example) to which you still have access. To access tracking via the Web, you sign on to Apple’s MobileMe site using your existing Apple ID. (Although you use the MobileMe site, you do not need a MobileMe account.)

Naturally, the application must be set up before you lose your phone, but doesn’t require installation of any additional software. You need only enable it in your iPhone settings once you complete set up from the App Store.

Once you sign in, the site instantly takes you to a map that displays the location of your iPhone. The app uses a mix of GPS, Wi-Fi data, and cell tower data to locate the phone. The use of all of these services is helpful when you need to locate a missing phone and a GPS signal can’t be established–for example, inside a building. You do have to have Location Services enabled on your iPhone to use all three services. Previous users of the app said that they did not notice an appreciable battery drain when using the app.

Users like PC World’s Liane Cassavoy describe the accuracy of the Find My iPhone app as being impressive. “I was able to use it to track my iPhone 4 to a specific parking space in a sizable lot outside of a Home Depot two towns away from my home. It also accurately placed my iPhone outside in a local park, inside a small neighbourhood store, and travelling on various road,” she writes.

Perhaps, the most important aspect of this app is that it allows users to remotely wipe the contents of the iPhone, and lock the phone if you suspect that it has fallen into the wrong hands. Find My iPhone also lets users display a customisable message on its screen or play a sound from it that could either deter a thief or help you locate it.

The Find My iPhone app is now part of the iOS5 via the iCloud service. (Directions to install iCloud and set up the tracking service are available on Apple’s website)

And what’s more this isn’t the only app out there for you to track your lost iPhone. So my friends take a leaf out of my book, look through your options (iLocalis, Mobile Spy 3.0, iHound, Navizon etc) and do what it takes to ensure that, even if by some stroke of misfortune you do lose your precious Apple smart phone, you can prevent a bad situation from getting any worse.

I for one haven’t wasted any time. While I will make a conscious effort to hold onto my iPhone with all my might, I have also enabled the magical Find My iPhone. Now both me and my corporate IT department need not worry about my phone being lost, and it’s contents falling into the wrong hands. I suggest you do the same.

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